Because I lived in South Carolina for years, right-wing arguments for flying the Confederate flag are as familiar to me as right-wing arguments against marriage equality. They’re similarly disingenuous:
- “Heritage, not hate!”/”I love homosexuals; I just don’t agree with their lifestyle.”
- “The flag has always flown in front of the State House!”/”It’s not for us to change God’s definition of marriage!”
- “The Civil War was about states’ rights; not slavery.”/”This is about religious freedom, not bigotry.”
- “This is a matter best left to individual states.”/”This is a matter best left to individual states.”
Simple, thinly-veiled hostility, mixed with appeals to tradition, individual rights, capitalistic terror, a persecution complex, and the Lord God Almighty Himself. These arguments dry up and blow away if you have a basic understanding of our secular legal system and/or the Old Testament, which defines marriage in a drastically different way than anything now sanctioned by the strictest Southern Baptist, including polygamy and marrying your rapist. (Google that stuff. Also, remember never to wear a cotton-polyester blend or cook a young goat in its mother’s milk, OK? I went to Bible school, so don’t mess with me. We can quote Scripture back and forth until Gabriel’s trump).
The above arguments are a cover for the real arguments, which are:
- “I despise African-Americans.”/”I’m freaked out by the thought of a penis going into an anus, as well as the idea of two women tasting other’s vaginas without a man in the room.”
We can move on now! Right-wingers are what they’ve always been. What I’m fascinated with are the progressive arguments against same-sex marriage; from people with whom I agree on most other things and who ought to be celebrating Friday’s Supreme Court decision. This set of arguments goes like:
1. All systems and modes of oppression have not yet been eradicated, therefore we shouldn’t care about marriage.
2. Marriage is a heterosexual institution and therefore unimportant for gays.
3. Marriage is a patriarchal institution about “ownership” and therefore bad for women.
4. You don’t need a piece of paper to prove the stability and truth of your love.
This set of arguments is egregiously balls, because:
1. I can care about, and work on, lots of things at the same time! Like, the other day, I did a Jillian Michaels workout involving a squat with a shoulder press! Also, why do gays and lesbians need to put on everyone else’s oxygen mask first? Why do we always have to eat the burned one? What’s up with the guilt trip? Are we everyone’s mommy? Finally, where (besides during the second wave) was all the weighting and measuring of marriage when it was only for heterosexuals? Why all of a sudden are we line-editing it as an institution?
2. Heterosexuals don’t own marriage, just like they don’t own any other integral social institution or benefit. As long as human beings feel a deep, primal need to couple up and build lives together; we all have a vested interest in the legal equality of those relationships. You’re a same-sex couple who doesn’t want your relationship sanctioned by law? Fine! My wife and I won’t choose for you; you don’t get to choose for us. It’s a lot like how I find abortion morally reprehensible in most cases, but still support its legality, because I don’t get to decide for other people. I don’t have to live with the consequences of their decisions, so I don’t get in the way.
3. Marriage is only patriarchal if there’s a man in the marriage. Let’s go ahead and name the agent: Men, historically, have oppressed women in marriage (as well as outside it). Women don’t oppress one another in this way, nor can they (if you have any class analysis at all). I’m sorry if this hurts your feelings. If you’re using this argument, you’re likely a young person who wants to subvert and resist and who has never filed a federal tax return; or someone who is deeply bitter for personal reasons. It’s your own Very Special Journey. But you don’t get to dictate to me.
4. Of course you don’t need a piece of paper to prove the stability and truth of your love – but you do need it to prove you’ve made one specific, legal, and protected commitment – a commitment in which you sign on for over a thousand rights, privileges and obligations that can’t be taken away. Once you make that commitment – namely, federally-recognized marriage; not a civil union or domestic partnership – your situation doesn’t change whenever the political winds blow. You are not at the mercy of people who do not wish you well. The thought of what you do in bed squicks them out six ways to Sunday? Tough. They don’t have to host your reception at their particular church; they don’t have to send you a gravy boat off your registry, but – and this is all that matters – they can’t make you less-than.
And, a special message to the heterosexual “progressive” women who’ve always been able to marry and who dismiss marriage equality as unimportant? Fuck right off out of here. I’ve spent years caring about things like male domestic violence and your right to contraception, and you presume to tell me what is and isn’t important in my life, or what ought to be done first or beforehand?
How’d you like it if my wife and I took an Andrea Dworkin line on your relationship? Your sex life and relationship is oppressive and coercive by its very nature, ladies. How’d that feel?
You, and everyone else who purports to know what’s best for us, can throw all the shade you want. Because this one’s done. This one, as Justice Kennedy wrote from the highest court in the land, is immutable.